Widow jailed for benefits con

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A FRAUDSTER has been jailed for six months after scamming taxpayers out of thousands of pounds.

Mary Phelan lied about her 
income to claim thousands in overpayments from Blackpool Council – and get her hands on income support she was not even entitled to.

In total, Phelan was given more than £42,000 in handouts she should not have received.

Preston Crown Court heard the 49-year-old, from Hornby Road, Blackpool, was receiving around £600 a month as part of a widow’s pension from the Republic of Ireland, but kept this fact a secret from the authorities.

Rachael Woods, prosecuting, said: “As far as entitlement to income support was concerned she would not have been entitled to any.

“It was fraudulent from the outset.

“As far as housing and council tax benefit were concerned she would have been entitled to these benefits but they would have been reduced.”

In total Phelan received £26,533 in Income Support, £12,750 in housing benefit and £2,966 in council tax benefit.

She admitted two charges of dishonestly by failing to notify a change in circumstances in relation to her housing and council tax benefits from Blackpool Council and one of dishonestly making a false representation to gain Income Support.

Phelan only came clean after she was interviewed by the authorities about whether she was receiving any other income.

Her fraud spanned six years between 2005 and 2011, and in that time she received around 56,000 euros from her Irish pension.

But her defence barrister Daniel Hardman said she had not been living an “opulent” lifestyle in that time and described her as “vulnerable”

But Judge Simon Newell opted to send Phelan immediately to prison, jailing her for one month for the council tax fraud, three months for the housing benefit fraud and six months for dishonestly obtaining Income Support, with the sentences to run concurrently.